The Early Years, 1988-92

In May of 1988, God gave a local Christian businessman, Joe Gregory, a great desire to see an accredited Christian school established in St. Joseph. Joe wasn’t sure how to go about making it happen, but one day he found himself (literally) on his face before God in a hotel room in Texas. “God, please tell me if You want me to do something about a Christian school in St. Joe.”

The Lord gave Joe a vision. Joe saw the Lord standing on an incline, in front of two doors of a school building. His arms were open wide, and children by the score were running toward the Lord and into the school. The Holy Spirit impressed upon Joe, “Let the children come to me and don’t hinder them.”

When Joe returned to St. Joseph, Pastor Ron Nichols, who served on the board of Area Ministers for Christ with Joe, showed him an ad in the St. Joseph newspaper, listing the old Everett school building for sale. Joe grabbed the paper out of Ron’s hands and ran immediately to the school district office. He found he had only two to three days to offer a sealed bid for the building.

Joe secured a loan for $40,000 and placed a bid of $30,000 for the property, keeping back $10,000 for expenses such as painting, purchasing desks, etc. The St. Joseph School District accepted Joe’s bid, and the building became the property of Area Ministers for Christ, which soon became the parent corporation to St. Joseph Christian School.

Area Ministers for Christ established a committee to identify a school board to hire a principal. Now the board wondered, Where do you go to find a Christian school principal? One day Joe happened to be speaking to another local pastor who told him about the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). The board then arranged to interview several candidates for principal.

Mr. David Berry was hired as St. Joseph Christian School’s first principal in July 1988. At that time, there was not a desk, chair, or telephone in the building! Within two months, however, through miraculous acts of God and by the work of His servants, the school was ready, and SJCS opened on September 12, 1988, with 135 students and ten teachers!

Throughout the years God’s hand moved in more miraculous ways. In October 1990, the school held its first fundraising dinner campaign, “Invest in a Child.” In 1991, the school held its first Grandparents’ Day.

Accreditation, 1993-94

During the school year 1993/1994, SJCS undertook the hard work to become accredited with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Committee for Accredited Schools Non-public, through the University of Missouri at Columbia. Our students were then eligible to participate in the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), giving them the opportunity to compete against public school counterparts in athletics, fine arts, and other competitions. Since then, students have also become eligible to receive the State of Missouri’s Bright Flight Scholarship and participate in the National Merit Program.

A New Building, 1998-2005

When Mr. Berry left SJCS in 1998 to take a position as principal of a Christian school in the Cayman Islands, he wrote these words: “Throughout the (past) decade much has been accomplished at SJCS because of the work and prayers of countless, faithful friends. The Lord has done much. . . .”

Mr. Rich Fox became the new administrator of SJCS in the fall of 1998. Due to the school’s incredible growth, Mr. Fox, at the direction of the school board, began to pursue a building program, which became known as the Nehemiah Project. Also during his first year at SJCS, the school became accredited by North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. The brand new 8-man football team practiced on the school’s asphalt playground and held games on a baseball field at Hyde Park that was adapted for the purpose!

The elementary grades, staff, and teachers moved in the summer of 2002, with secondary students having access to the new gymnasium, football field, and track. Curriculum director, Mrs. Debbie Robertson, facilitated implementation of the Foundations and Frameworks Reading Program for elementary students in 2003.

Over the next few years, a media center and twelve additional classrooms were completed at the new campus and secondary faculty, staff, and students were able to move for the 2005/2006 school year. The “old building” at 14th and Olive Streets was closed and sold in the summer of 2005.

God’s faithfulness through the Nehemiah Project soon enabled the school to implement plans for the new facility. A prayer meeting was held to dedicate the new property, gift of an anonymous donor, at the corner of Gene Field and Bishop Roads. Imagine the surprise when construction began down the hill, at the corner of Gene Field and Riverside Roads! The One for certain, who was not surprised was the Lord Himself, who knew that all that “prayed for” dirt would need to be moved down the hill to provide solid footing for the new school building. Once again, His hand was in the details!

Giving Thanks, 2006-11

In the spring of 2006, Mr. Fox shared with the Board his sense that God was calling him to something new. Mrs. Lydia Zuidema became the new lead administrator of SJCS in the summer of 2006; Mr. Danny Maggart became the secondary principal, Mrs. Rose Dunlap the elementary principal, and Mrs. Connie Thornton the administrator of curriculum and instruction.

During school year 2007/2008, St. Joseph Christian School celebrated its 20th anniversary, offering thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done, including that our capital campaign for the new campus, $7.9 million, was paid in full!

In the following years, the mag-lock system and security cameras were installed and a security receptionist hired, the OneCall Now communications system was implemented, the school library was automated and an aftercare program was established. Students continued to excel academically as well as in extra-curricular areas, often scoring several points above the state norms on standardized and college entrance exams, and receiving honors and advancing to state in athletics, scholar bowl and the arts.

Heart for Missions

In the beginning, SJCS used missions materials generated by The Association of Christian Schools International for a week of missions-focused activities, instruction, and outreach, as well as participating in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox program. When ASCI no longer provided these materials, the Lord led the administrative team in creating their own so that missions education, one of the school’s core values, could continue. In the following years, students studied and raised money for a Native American school, a project in South Africa, Bethlehem Bible College, and a Jesus Film mission trip to Afghanistan for two high school Bible teachers, as well as serving in our own community as the hands and feet of Jesus.

The missions program of the school continued to grow as secondary students began conducting two community service days a year and all students, PK through 12th grade began raising funds for a clean drinking water well at Kind-Hearts School, Ethiopia. In total, the Lord used SJCS to raise over $37,000 for the project and wove together the hearts of our students and staff with those half way around the world in a very special way. In the spring of 2011, Mr. Maggart was the first administrator to travel with a group including our own high school students to Kind-Hearts School to see the well site and minister to children there. SJCS considers the development of our students’ hearts for missions, which has carried them from serving in their local churches and the St. Joseph community to Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Netherlands and wherever the Lord may lead, to be one of the Lord’s dearest accomplishments through us.

Expanding Relationships, 2012-18

In the fall of 2012, Mrs. Zuidema announced she would retire at the end of the 2013/2014 school year. During that year, Mrs. Zuidema and Mrs. Thornton led SJCS faculty and staff in completing preparations for an ACSI accreditation team visit in April. We rejoiced as SJCS was recommended for another 5 year cycle of accreditation.

The school family could think of no better retirement gift for Mrs. Zuidema than to send her on the spring mission trip to see the water well at Kind-Hearts, a journey she found “unspeakably moving, to see what the Lord has done!”

After a year-long search the board was led to hire Dr. Jason Tindol as the new superintendent of St. Joseph Christian School in 2014. The Lord continued to bless the school under Dr. Tindol’s leadership. His dedication to building community relationships created many new opportunities for SJCS students and allowed new partnerships to form. During his tenure, SJCS implemented the FACTS Tuition Management Program, the SJCS Elementary Sports League, began a baseball program and developed an improved teacher/staff benefits package. Other new programs included Cisco Academy, a summer care program, and being designated as an A+ school.

In the summer of 2018 Dr. Tindol felt a strong call to serve at a Christian school in the state of Washington. Although this led to a sudden transition in leadership, God has continued to faithfully guide SJCS through this time. The SJCS Board made the decision to pilot a new structure for the SJCS administrative leadership. Mrs. Rose Dunlap and Mr. Danny Maggart would continue serving as elementary and secondary principals, respectively, while also serving as co-superintendents of the school.

The Future, Driven by Our Core Values

As we pursue the vision of equipping students to impact their world for Christ, we are grateful for the improvements God has blessed us with to help us meet the challenges of educating 21st century learners. Multiple technology upgrades have been completed including new Chromebook labs for elementary and secondary students, new supercomputers for the secondary lab, and a new router system for the entire campus. Student support systems have been improved by adding elementary guidance classes to the role of the school counselor and offering academic support through the Creative Learning Center at no additional cost to families. We added the position of Fine Arts Director to provide additional leadership for this department, and the Fine Arts Boosters continue to provide great support for both the performance and visual arts. Another improvement is the recently completed Lions Athletic Center which provides abundant training opportunities for our student athletes. One other major upgrade was changing our student information system to FACTS SIS, which is integrated with FACTS tuition management. This system brings added convenience to our parents, enhances gradebook and communication capabilities for staff, and has allowed us to introduce online enrollment.

As we move forward, we want to make sure we seek God’s vision for St. Joseph Christian School. We want our actions and decisions to be clearly driven by our core values: scholarship, Jesus Christ, character and service. We pray that all we do will bring Him honor and glory.

Who could have imagined when the Lord told Mr. Gregory to “let the little children come” that He would work through the “little children” of St. Joseph Christian School to draw “little children” across town and around the world into His saving embrace? As we continue to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ, we are grateful that God in His sovereignty continues to bless the skills, talents, commitment, and prayers of the parents, teachers, staff, students, and friends of SJCS. We look forward with eager anticipation to see what He may do in us and though us in this bright new season!